Grace Hopper as Susan Calvin

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (1906-1992) was one of the legendary pioneers of computing in the 20th century; among other achievements she had written the first compiler. Here is a well-known photo of her with some colleagues at the console of a Univac-1 computer back in 1957.

Grace Hopper next to Univac 1 console,1957

And whenever I see this photo, I am reminded vividly of Dr. Susan Calvin, Robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation, as featured in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. I don’t mean the silly action movie starring Will Smith; that had Dr. Calvin as a sexy young chick. In the book (which is much different and way better) Calvin is a strict, prim, spinsterish lady who clearly feels more at home with robots than among humans, whom she treats with a dispassionate aloofness most of the time. She is also the smartest human in the book, by a large margin; an ultimate Geek, in fact.

There are those who claim that Hopper was Asimov’s model for his heroine; be that as it may, if I had to imagine Susan Calvin (the real one, so to speak), I would go no farther than Grace Hopper in this picture. There she sits, the only woman in a male-dominated environment, professional and intelligent and focused on her technological specialty.

Hats off to both these grand ladies of Geekdom, past and future!

3 Responses to “Grace Hopper as Susan Calvin”

  1. 1 chaniarts

    I’ve met Ms Hopper a couple of times and heard her speak in the mid-1970’s. She was a very good speaker and was able to explain the history of computing very well.

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    Met her in person? Wow. That must have been quite an experience!

  3. 3 chaniarts

    one thing she used to do was hand out 11″ pieces of wire and say, “Here, have a nanosecond.”

    i had mine for quite a few years.

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